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The Borg: where can I sign up
Despite their methods, I find the Borg cause to be a noble one: achieving perfection. Isn't this what we all want? To unleash our full potentials? To finally grasp a state wherein anything is possible at any time? Wherein we become anything we want to be? And seamlessly, without hesitation, without resistance? The perfect, dynamic system: a chameleon. Now, this post may be colored by my own interpretation of what I think perfection is, but I think the Borg and I share some commonalities in our views. The Borg can certainly go anywhere, anytime, as evidenced by their advanced drive technologies and hubs which allow their ships to travel among the quadrants of the galaxy in no time. As for becoming, the Borg are known for their incredible adaptivity. You think Plan A is going to work? You better have Plans B, C and D ready to go---the Borg are coming!
And so what if a couple billion have to give up their individuality to be assimilated into the Collective? Like Spock said, the sacrifices of the few (or one) are justified if it leads to betterment of the many. It's a good thing I've taken an Ethics course so I can instantly recognize this as utilitarianism, which enables us to cast aside one person's dignity to serve the wishes of others. Sounds great as long as you're one of the others. Sounds not so great if you're the one giving up your dignity for nothing in return. That the Collective is offering perfection, itself, upsets the scales of justice, however. Like Seven of Nine once told the Queen, if the Borg wouldn't come on so strong, then they might elicit some volunteers. Again I ask, where can I sign up?
(It turns out that there is an online mailing list to which you can subscribe to request assimilation by the Borg. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org)
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24 is a gruesome series: I believe Hurley from Lost described it best, "We're just...waiting for the next bad thing to happen." Spot on, Hurley, spot on. However, it is really compelling, which is why I've come up with the Twentyfourathon---watching an entire season of 24 over the course of two days, allowing for breaks and sleep and such. I'll watch an episode of season four (quick summary: the first female director of CTU leads her team to secure the country's nuclear power plants from simultaneous meltdowns), and then I'll come back here and post my reaction to that hour. I see the Twentyfourathon as an opportunity for personal growth: why will I pay attention to certain elements and not others, finding some pivotal and some not worth a mention?
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Hence, I want to become a JRocker when I grow up. Not only would I have access to a surplus of women (what, I don't already?), but I'd spend my days creating beautiful things---songs, increasingly adept vocal cords, concentrating on fashion even moreso than I already do. Plus, I'd get to live among Asians, for whom I have an affinity since I seem to share their values and (OMG prepare yourself for a really advanced Psychology term) personal constructs, or the way that we categorize and store information which we perceive in our environment.
Since I *just* this morning completed a 7-page paper for one of my Psychology courses and I'm starting to have flashbacks, I'll refrain from explaining further except to give a single example. KevJumba, one of my favorite and sex-obsessed (maybe that's why he's among my favorite?) artists over at YouTube, described in one of his videos how Asian parents react differently than non-Asian parents to school grades. To Caucasian parents, an A is outstanding; to Asian parents, an A is just average, and a B is reason for alarm. Same here, guys, same here.
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This seed saw its opportunity to blossom---and it did, in a big way---just this month when I realized that I wanted a portable MP3 player.
No more would an immovable silence hold hostage those minutes that saw me stuck in traffic on the way to school or on the way back home. I wanted to listen to Tourbillon's Kiyuu, Origa's Rise and Sting's Never Coming Home, and I refused to be frustrated by a previous attempt to burn a music CD that ended up failing to work in the car's CD player. On the other hand, I'd never thought of myself as one of those trendy people with Macs and iPods and snazzy clothes and compelling lives full of adventure and excitement (I'm not sure of the degree to which Apple portrays its users as having all those qualities in the company's commercials). Nope, I was a run-of-the-mill computer nerd: using a PC to play games, do homework and complete other menial, unexciting tasks. Sorry, PC users. I generally think our lives kind of suck.
But music is beautiful, and I want to be beautiful and so I should listen to my beautiful music, right? I might as well listen to it beautifully: with an iPod Shuffle. Such was my unconscious decision at the Fry's Electronics superstore where I used to work as I interrogated one of the computer salespeople about the virtues of a device against which I had surprisingly little resistance. How do you get music from the computer onto the player? What's its battery life? What's your return policy on this? Oh, so overtly concerned with the technical details when, in fact, I surmise that I was just going through the motions of frugality to convince myself that choosing to buy it would be a sound decision. No, on some emotional level that I don't enjoy validating, I simply wanted it and was secretly delighted when the salesperson diverted my attention from a much cheaper model by another manufacturer to this shiny, silver object that seemed to increase the value of the dirt-cheap, plastic protective clamshell that it inhabited.
Indeed, our emotions drive our purchases.
But who can deny the impulses of a child who has grown up without access to the most hip accessories? I remember struggling to keep up with others' fast compies with my sluggish PC and 14.4K modem. I was never quite fast enough, and that had a lasting psychological impact. Coincidentally, we talked today about learned helplessness in one of the two psychology classes that I attend. This occurs when a person is exposed to uncontrollable events from which he cannot affect an escape. He learns that nothing he does to adapt to his situation improves his state, as there are no rewards for acting in one way versus another. A famous study put dogs in a harness so that they couldn't move and administered an electric shock to the bottom of their metallic cage. When the harness was removed---so that the dogs could escape the shock if they chose---they did nothing. They endured the shock and quietly whimpered. They chose not to move because they believed that there was no way to free themselves from that trap, even when a means to escape was given to them.
Now, I'm not saying that I'm using an iPod to fulfill a need to finally catch up with those other kids, but I might be using an iPod to fulfill a need to finally catch up with those other kids! I hadn't expected this to come out in a blog post, but I'm going to run with it anyway. I don't believe that my playing catch-up is a bad thing, here. I believe that we must reconcile ourselves with the past in order to meaningfully move into the future. It unsettles me to think that there are such powerful determinants of my own behavior that I'm not even fully aware of. But realizing these unconscious driving forces is the task of mapping out the interesting (and Apple-centric?) person that I believe myself to be.
Freud may have been correct in speculating that we do so much of what we do because we are strongly influenced by forces that are outside of our awareness. He also proposed that bringing unconscious information into consciousness is key to taking back control---as well as finally understanding what makes us tick. One thing is clear: I've taken back control of those interstitial moments where silence once reigned supreme. And, so far, I couldn't be happier for having done so.
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I find really inspiring that a work I wrote seven years ago is still popular. According to my stats, the tutorial receives about 60 visitors a day, making it the most-trafficked web property I've had the privilege of managing. To its continued success!
plan to upgrade (EDIT: Mar 3) am upgrading (EDIT: Mar 6) have upgraded the tutorial to accept anonymous comments, though you may add your name, email address and (EDIT: Mar 12) , possibly, a web address if you wish. The added anonymity is meant to be a feature to reduce the social stigma associated with making comments. I know I certainly appreciate having this ability on the sites to which I regularly post, and I'm curious to know if the overall level of honesty rises with this format---will I get more (constructive) criticism that I wouldn't have otherwise received?
With another edit, I added support for a rudimentary rating system to allow a user to include a numeric rating (0-5) with his comment. This doesn't really get interesting until you look at the average rating over all voters. I accomplish this by selecting all ratings from the database, summing them and dividing by the number of voters. Presto! - I have a rating system that I thought would take much longer to code than it did: about an hour.
In another hour, I added code to let a user enter his website address along with his comment. Since you can enter both an email and web address, or one without the other, or post anonymously and give neither at all, the corresponding display code becomes quite intricate. I ended up writing:
This is the PHP code responsible for the delightfully readable sentence, shown under the comment, that typically reads like "Posted March 12, 2008 1:19pm; email author, or visit author." But what if the user didn't provide an email address? or provided an email address but not a web address? or neither? How do you programmatically select from the four possibilities:
Indeed, the devil is in the details of handling what punctuation to include (the connectingPhraseOne and connectingPhraseTwo variables, above) and which phrases to use (the byline, contactLink and visitLink variables). But why even bother with human-readable sentences? Because I believe that that extra bit of attention goes a long way in maximizing user-friendliness. And everybody likes user-friendly software---prove me wrong.
Then again, I may just like writing really complete software---code that does its job and then some. I wouldn't be surprised if this is my guiding philosophy in other areas of my life as well. You'd better go post a comment, because I think it looks too awesome to go to waste!
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Two applications later, there was no hair left on my calves, thighs, buttocks, lower back or armpits. And creating nice "borders" like you can by shaving is not only possible with the lotion, but works just as well or better than shaving.
Despite these drawbacks, I highly recommend this product to my fellow man.
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Master of Orion 2: I love this game.
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